Let’s ask Romney if he took part in LDS sex abuse coverups

A lot of people, especially members of the media, are reluctant to ask questions about Mitt Romney’s LDS affiliation. It’s frequently compared to religious prejudice against Jack Kennedy’s Catholic faith. No big deal, we’re so much more enlightened now. End of story, right?

I’m not so sure. The difference is, Jack Kennedy wasn’t a Catholic bishop. But if he were, and we knew about the problem of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and the extensive coverup by the church hierarchy, wouldn’t some enterprising member of the media ask at least a few questions?

Because there is an extensive problem with such abuse in the Mormon church, and Mitt Romney was a bishop. From 1986 to 1994, he was president of the Boston stake, which is similar to a Catholic diocese. “Before that, Romney was bishop, similar to a lay pastor, of congregations in Belmont and Cambridge. Each job included both organizational work and counseling.”

And guess what? The Mormon church leaders consistently discouraged victims from reporting such crimes to authorities. They now claim to have strict rules on reporting, but the very structure of the LDS community makes it difficult to know whether it’s made a difference, because it’s hard to measure what isn’t reported.

After all, unlike the Catholic church, LDS members literally stand to lose everything if they insist on bringing criminal charges against the advice of their bishop or stake holder — or even make allegations within the church community. (Especially when the perpetrator is a bishop.)

Like the Catholic church, the Mormons frequently denied and covered up for perpetrators, who would simply move to another part of the country and start abusing again. (The church now keeps a registry of the accused, making it more difficult.) Also like the Catholic church, bishops frequently accepted “repentance” as a reasonable solution to accusations. Unlike the Catholic church, though, the Mormons are much more likely to pay settlements to accusers. They really don’t like bad publicity — although they’re not above trying to protect themselves financially.

Kelly Clark, a Portland OR attorney specializing in child sexual abuse cases, points out:

The structure of the LDS Church has contributed to the problem. By this statement, I mean that, unlike, say, the Catholic Church, with its rigid hierarchy of ministry and its well-defined concept of who is a “minister,” the Mormon Church’s local leadership structure—Stake Presidents and Bishops being lay, not professional, ministers, and serving on a rotating, and not permanent, basis— made it harder for the Church to educate, train and supervise the local leadership to screen, monitor and supervise those who are in a position to abuse children. Additionally, given the large number of church tasks delegated by the Church to its members via “callings”—home teachers, Sunday School teachers, quorum leaders, bishoprics, Scout leaders, etc—the number of “relationships of trust” between “official” church leaders and children are many times the number in other churches and youth organizations.

The LDS Church’s response to child abuse in its midst, until relatively recently, did not materially differ from that of other churches—the Catholics, the Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others. There was historically a consistent tendency to try to bury the problem, to encourage or coerce victims to stay silent, to “let the Bishop handle it” and other similar responses, when an allegation of child abuse arose. Of course, as in any religious context, in the Mormon culture there immediately arose for a victim or for his or her family a kind of conflict of interest, or religious duress, where to take action to report or prosecute an abuser could be seen as attacking or harming the Church. This kind of dilemma for victims and their families, in any religious setting, is always deeply tormenting, even traumatic, especially when in the context of a church such as the LDS, where loyalty to the Church was expected to be complete.

He does go on to say the LDS church is doing a much better job of training their members to prevent and recognize abuse. Still, it apparently happens enough that law firms specialize in it.

The LDS church has a very close relationship with the Boy Scouts; Mormon boys are expected to join. The scouting program became even more of a pedophile magnet than usual, and many of the worst sexual abuse cases involve the Scouts.

Part of what contributes to repression and shame about sex is the fact that Mormon bishops frequently ask members of their church some fairly creepy questions during private interviews, all related to however the bishop interprets this question: “Do you live the law of chastity?”

Children as young as 8 years old are asked if they masturbate. Children as young as 12 years old are asked if they masturbate or have “petted” or have “necked” with a partner. Many Mormon children have no idea what any of these terms are. If the child has committed any of these “sins”, they are pressed for details. Many are then scorned and told that their acts will lead them to hell. Those who have masturbated are then denied the sacrament and must then be interviewed by the Bishop on a weekly basis until the masturbation has stopped. Mormon children grow up sexually repressed and many grow up emotionally insecure about their own sexuality.

Parents are not allowed in the room at the same time these sexual questions are asked. Mormon parents are not allowed to question Mormon Priesthood authority and do not hesitate to turn their male and female children over to men behind closed doors.

Oh, and this adult male gets to ask all kinds of necessary details, like what position you’re in when you masturbate. How about asking an eight-year-old girl if she’s had sexual intercourse with a male OR female, or if she’s looked at pornography? Yeah, that’s some twisted stuff.

I can see why someone given that kind of all-encompassing, far-too-intimate authority — with no required training in pastoral counseling or psychology — might begin to think of himself as a minor god, above reproach. It certainly explains a lot about Mitt Romney’s sense of entitlement.

5 Responses to Let’s ask Romney if he took part in LDS sex abuse coverups

  1. dandy August 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I can hear Romney’s hacks right now telling the reporter to kiss his ass saying something along the lines of “Don’t you know how sacred LDS Bishops are”?

  2. lless August 8, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    This line of attack feels vaguely like the Jeremiah Wright charge. Given Romney’s demonstrated shortcomings, isn’t this innuendo just a distraction?

  3. susie August 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    No. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of patriarchal churches letting child rapers off the hook. The LDS church has a known tendency to suppress these abuse reports, and Mitt was one of the people who was in charge of interviewing any local victims. Again: If this was a Catholic bishop running for office, wouldn’t you want to know?

  4. dandy August 9, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    Get a life, lless. You must be from Texas where critical thinking skills are at the lower end of the curriculum. There’s absolutely NO correlation between the Wright issue and the fact that “Bishop Romney” was in charge of overseeing the activities of child abuse in his area of responsibility. He was a ‘Bishop’ for God’s sake! What the hell does that have to do with what Wright talked about in ’07/08 when our president simply attended his church?

  5. jawbone August 9, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Dandy, I don’t think Romney’s people will actually respond to this issue if they can at all avoid it. Time will tell, but, essentially, Romney is trying to make people forget that not only is he a Mormon, but he was a high official in the Mormon Church. And did things some would consider unfeeling and rigid.

    How many in the MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media) have mentioned in any way this story about Romney serving in his role as adviser and counselor? Just about everyone knows about Seamus the dog and Romney’s treatment of him, but how about his treatment of women as their bishop?

    This should be referenced on all sites concerned about women’s rights.


    In the fall of 1990, Exponent II published in its journal an unsigned essay by a married woman who, having already borne five children, had found herself some years earlier facing an unplanned sixth pregnancy. She couldn’t bear the thought of another child and was contemplating abortion. But the Mormon Church makes few exceptions to permit women to end a pregnancy. Church leaders have said that abortion can be justified in cases of rape or incest, when the health of the mother is seriously threatened, or when the fetus will surely not survive beyond birth. And even those circumstances “do not automatically justify an abortion,” according to church policy.

    Then the woman’s doctors discovered she had a serious blood clot in her pelvis. She thought initially that would be her way out—of course she would have to get an abortion. But the doctors, she said, ultimately told her that, with some risk to her life, she might be able to deliver a full-term baby, whose chance of survival they put at 50 percent. One day in the hospital, her bishop—later identified as Romney, though she did not name him in the piece—paid her a visit. He told her about his nephew who had Down syndrome and what a blessing it had turned out to be for their family. “As your bishop,” she said he told her, “my concern is with the child.” The woman wrote, “Here I—a baptized, endowed, dedicated worker, and tithe-payer in the church—lay helpless, hurt, and frightened, trying to maintain my psychological equilibrium, and his concern was for the eight-week possibility in my uterus—not for me!”

    Romney would later contend that he couldn’t recall the incident, saying, “I don’t have any memory of what she is referring to, although I certainly can’t say it could not have been me.” Romney acknowledged having counseled Mormon women not to have abortions except in exceptional cases, in accordance with church rules. The woman told Romney, she wrote, that her stake president, a doctor, had already told her, “Of course, you should have this abortion and then recover from the blood clot and take care of the healthy children you already have.” Romney, she said, fired back, “I don’t believe you. He wouldn’t say that. I’m going to call him.” And then he left. The woman said that she went on to have the abortion and never regretted it. “What I do feel bad about,” she wrote, “is that at a time when I would have appreciated nurturing and support from spiritual leaders and friends, I got judgment, criticism, prejudicial advice, and rejection.”


    THe whole article is well worth reading, probably the whole book should be read.

    Just before this quote, there’s a woman’s story of Romney ordering her, since she had conceived a baby out of wedlock, to give the baby up for adoption. When she refused, he told she would be excommunicated. And there’s more…but Romney remembers none of it.

    (Confession: I haven’t read through all links yet, so if this was included I apologize for the redundancy.)

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